The Hemp Connection + mental health

Body Dysmorphic Disorder and You

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“Dysmorphia” may not be part of your everyday vocabulary, but if I tell you that lots of people thought the late Michael Jackson suffered from it, you’ll probably know what I’m talking about. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD, for short), is a complex psychological problem that results in obsessions with imagined defects in your personal appearance.

It drives people to exercise excessively, engage in extreme dieting, reshape their bodies through weight-lifting, get cosmetic procedures including plastic surgery, change their clothes often, engage in approval-seeking behaviors, and dress oddly in order to disguise imagined defects. It may also result in avoidance of mirrors, failure to seek medical help when necessary, refusal to participate in sports, sex, or other social activities, excessive beauty practices such as permanent make-up, dangerous chemical hair straightening, and the like. Many if not most of us have engaged in some of these behaviors at some point in our PCOS journeys.

In a group of people who have anxiety or depression, you’ll find BDD as an additional diagnosis in about 5 – 40%. This is quite a range, to be sure, but I think we’d find an even higher rate of BDD among women with PCOS. BDD is more common among women, actually, since we’ve already got a culture that is fixated on our likes as a central factor in our value. And, we’ve already got a much higher incidence of depressive and anxiety disorders, and our symptoms, while both internal and external, have particularly disturbing external manifestations. It can definitely reach an obsessive level of preoccupation when a woman is losing her hair, covered with excess hair in all the wrong places, erupting in acne, or dealing with stubborn, unbudgeable abdominal fat. The desire to be rid of THE PROBLEM can take an astonishing amount of time and energy.

I have clients who do all of the above, and more. If they’re not tackling the problem head-on (all discretionary funds go towards laser or electrolysis, they will not have sex unless and until they lose 50 pounds, they consider themselves complete failures at managing their bodies and tell themselves so regularly), they’re in avoidance mode. The avoidance usually affects social relationships, and further exacerbates depression – or being forced into a social situation will bring up anxiety.

It’s a complex condition that merits more than passing, gossipy attention from the media. It ruins lives. If you think you may suffer from BDD, please seek professional consultation to see how you can be helped. PCOS is complicated enough, without the extra layer of problems caused by BDD.

Gretchen Kubacky, Psy.D. is a Health Psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles, California. She has completed the inCYST training. She specializes in counseling women and couples who are coping with infertility, PCOS, and related endocrine disorders and chronic illnesses.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. HOUSE or her practice, or obtain referrals in the Los Angeles area, please visit her website at, or e-mail her at You can also follow her on Twitter @askdrhousemd.

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Body Dysmorphic Disorder and You + mental health